West Virginia State Parks

The Mountain State, West Virginia, is home to about forty state parks. Many of those parks exist in commemoration of Revolutionary and Civil Wars, with some named after Native American chiefs who participated in Revolutionary War battles. Other state parks were created to protect natural landforms and forests. Several have lakes formed from dams built by the WPA.

The most well known of West Virginia tourist sites is undoubtedly the New River Gorge National River which is adjacent to Babcock State Park in the southeastern corner of the state. Not only is this area the whitewater rafting center of West Virginia, but also the New River Gorge Bridge has the distinction of being the second longest single span steel arch bridge in the world. The bridge is celebrated at the annual Bridge Day on the third Sunday of October. On this day, the bridge is closed to traffic as pedestrians walk the length of the bridge and watch the parachutists jump from the bridge into the gorge below. The Babcock State Park has cabin rentals and a campground for visitors, and a 20acre lake for boating and fishing. Visitors can also tour the Glade Mill Grist Mill built using materials from three original West Virginia mills which either burned or fell into disrepair. Corn and buckwheat are ground in the mill, and can be purchased by visitors.

In the upper western border West Virginia shares with Ohio is the Blennerhassett Island Historical Start Park. Two miles west of Parkersburg, Blennerhassett Island sits in the Ohio River. White settlers displaced the Native Americans who lived in this area since the Ice Age. An Irishman named Blennerhassett built a mansion on the island which later burned. Visitors who are brought to the island by sternwheeler boats can tour the replacement mansion and museum.

On the opposite side of the state in Preston County, is Cathedral State Park. This park consists of an ancient and virgin forest of hemlocks. These trees, which can be over 90 feet tall, form a cathedral-type shape when looking up into them from the ground. The original owner of the property donated the forest to the state with the stipulation that the trees never be cut or destroyed.

At Blackwater State Park just below where the southwestern corner of Maryland dips into West Virginia, the Blackwater River drops down an eight-mile gorge along which is the beautiful Blackwater Falls. The river is named for its dark amber color that is caused by the Red Spruce and Hemlock trees that have fallen into the water over many years, forming tannic acid in the water. The park has year-round activities, including skiing and sledding in the winter. The river is stocked for trout fishing in the springtime and the lake is used for boating and fishing. Hiking, swimming, and camping are also available at this popular state park.

North and east of Blackwater State Park and in the eastern panhandle of West Virginia is Berkeley Springs State Park. Known for its warm mineral water which stays at 74 degrees, Berkeley Springs is home to a spa which has operated since the 1930s. The springs pour out over 2000 gallons of water per minute. Reservations must be made to take advantage of the baths at the spa, and the nearby Cacapon Resort State Park offers lodging and spa packages to its guests.